The Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center may be the site of another battle in the so-called "War on Christmas" because it forbid high school students from crooning religious Christmas songs in public patient areas.
Students from the Alleluia Community School in Augusta, Ga. were not allowed to sing Christmas songs that celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ to veterans last Friday, reports CBS Atlanta.
Instead, the students were given a list of 12 Christmas songs that the hospital’s Pastoral Service had ruled to be appropriate in public areas of the VA because there are veterans of different religions and the VA is government property.
The students could have sung religious Christmas carols in the private chapel or day room for the veterans, but refused to do so.
“This is not a religious proselytizing, evangelistic issue,” Alleluia Community School principal Dan Funsch told the Athens-Banner Herald. “The song Joy to the World is as much a part of the holiday spirit as the Christmas tree.”
Funsch claimed his students were allowed to sing Christian Christmas songs at the same VA in in 2011 and 2012.
“Military service veterans, male and female, represent people of all faiths,” VA hospital spokesman Brian Rothwell said in a statement. “It is out of respect for every faith that The Veterans Administration gives clear guidance on what ‘spiritual care’ is to be given and who is to give it.”
“We regret any inconvenience or misunderstanding that this [policy] creates,” Rothwell added. “VA policy is welcoming but respectful of all faiths and the protection of each veteran’s right to religious freedom and protection from unwelcomed religious material, to their individual beliefs.”
Funsch said his students were allowed to sing Christmas songs that included Jesus at the Georgia Regents Medical Center.
“From our point of view, the purpose of Christmas and its carols is to celebrate and honor the birth of Jesus, and if that goal is taken from us, it is an issue we do not want to be a part of,” stated Funsch. “We do not think it is a good idea to systemically weed out religious Christmas songs from being sung in certain places.”